Play and art are important at every age
One of my pet peeves is the annual kerfuffle around university and college rankings.
Even though I’m super proud that my alma mater regularly rates among the top few public universities (#1 ranking this year from US News), I think these ratings are flawed because they still tend to focus on earning power and return on investment over many other factors.
While it’s important to think about how a college education will help you build a great life for yourself, is earning power really the primary consideration when calculating return on investment?
I don’t think so.
I think appreciation for history, appreciation for other cultures, a love for play and art—all these things and more need to be factored into what makes a great life.
Play and art have been a big part of my life, and continue to be
Last week I had several days filled with art and play. I even made a video about it.
I think there are few joys in my life greater than watching my kids do something joyful, creative, or athletic.
My son runs triathlons. I coached his soccer teams while he was growing up, and when he switched to running I attended as many cross country and track meets as I could. Watching him compete—watching him play—inspires me and always lights me up inside. Even though his bike broke down and he had to drop out of this weekend’s triathlon, it still was an amazingly special thing to be able to cheer him on.
My daughter is a TikTok microinfluencer, making videos about car stuff, EMT stuff, and queer stuff. She’s an artist and designed one of my tattoos. She has written incredible poetry, written a few songs, and learned how to do amazing graffiti art. There’s not much money in any of this, but I cannot express how her creativity inspires me and lights me up inside.
Making time for play and art can be hard for dedicated professionals
When we grow up, we spend so much of our energy on financial success, career advancement, wealth accumulation… on being taken seriously.
So it’s no wonder there are so many stories about adults who have forgotten what it means to play.
Play can even become a point of ridicule, or a source of embarrassment. Aren’t we supposed to be grown up? Why would we waste our time on games when we should be taking care of the yard, or earning money, or doing something productive?
Can you be both a professional with a serious reputation, and also someone who fights battles on weekends?
I’d argue that not only is it possible, but it’s required in order to be a whole person.
I don’t mean battle-fighting. I mean making time for play and art, in whatever form that takes. For me, it’s been a number of things.
I’m a writer, having published novels and stories and poems. Right now I’m working on a poetry collection with photo prompts from my creative partner. I hope to publish that early next year.
The novels I’ve published were all written during the busiest time of my life—I had a big full-time job, owned a home, had two school-aged kids, volunteered as soccer coach and scout leader.
It would have been easy to drop the writing from my schedule. It wasn’t a real job. It wasn’t going to make me rich. It wasn’t what a responsible, busy adult does.
I used play soccer, too, until I blew out my ACL a second time and decided not to get it fixed.
I admit I still feel a little silly spending so much time and energy on a game. It wasn’t just about the fitness—I could do the socially acceptable thing and go to the gym, after all—it was also about the game itself. The camaraderie of teammates. The joint pursuit of fun.
Creating art and making play in these troubled times
Every time I look at the news, I’m thrown into a spiral of despair. So much hatred in the world. So much division. So little empathy. So little compassion.
Everyone seems intent on taking someone else down. So many people are angry, and many don’t even know why. There’s a general sense that everything is failing, and that other people are to blame.
How do you find fun in times like this?
How do you create art in times like this?
It’s a lot easier just to have a glass of wine, crawl under the covers, and fire up the Hallmark Channel, isn’t it?
And sometimes I do that. But I think it’s important for all of us also to try to put art into the world.
Whether that’s writing a poem, making a TikTok video, dressing in your own personal flair, or putting on armor and whacking each other with sticks, I hope you will intentionally make time to create something this week, or to engage in frivolous play.
And then I hope you’ll come back here and tell me about it in the comments.